What is AAC and why we need to be aware of it? AAC stands for "Augmentative and Alternative Communication," which essentially means helping someone communicate so they can express their thoughts, needs, wants and ideas using any form of communication other than speech. This could mean using AAC (ex., sign language or a picture board) with a toddler who is non-verbal or minimally-verbal.
Parents often ask if using AAC will prevent their child from speaking. The answer is no, it does not prevent someone from learning to speak verbally. Instead, AAC offers a way for individuals who's speech output is not adequate to communicate everything that the he/she wants or needs to communicate. The use of some form of AAC not only decreases frustration, but it gives the individual the ability to communicate and interact appropriately with family and peers.
Did you know that you are using a form of AAC when you make facial expressions, use gestures and symbols of pictures, or write? Yep, these are all forms of unaided AAC. There are also aided communication systems that involve the use of additional materials or equipment to augment communication. Here are some of the AAC methods, systems and devices that can be used:
Single Button Voice-Output Devices
Multi-Button Voice-Output Devices
Dynamic-Display Voice-Output Devices
As mentioned, AAC can be used by individuals who have difficulty producing oral speech due to severe speech or language deficits. Depending on each individual's circumstances, AAC may be used temporarily or long-term and it may be used to supplement their oral speech abilities. An individual does not have to be non-verbal in order to use a form of AAC. Examples of who might use AAC includes, but is not limited to, individuals with:
apraxia & dyspraxia
autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)
traumatic brain injury (TBI)
degenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS], muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis [MS])
It's important to note that AAC is multimodal, allowing individuals to use every mode possible to communicate. A child with apraxia may use sign language and/or a picture board to communicate while he/she is learning how to produce sounds and words. A child with cerebral palsy might use a picture board or picture exchange system to start and then move on to a single button voice out-put device and then move on to using a more complex dynamic display device. Over time, the use of AAC may change based on each individual's needs because the AAC system used today may not be the best system for that individual tomorrow.
If you would like more information about AAC, or if you have concerns about your child's speech and language development, please contact a speech therapist in your area, or contact us at Wee Speak: 215-420-2121.